Inaugural Study

Participation in the study is officially closed. More than 1,650 dog owners completed the survey making this the largest of its kind ever. The collected data will now be analyzed at UPenn by Dr. James Serpell. Results of the study will be published by Drs. Dodman & Serpell and made available to the public.  

The purpose of the ANIMAL OWNERSHIP INTERACTION STUDY is establish once and for all how owner personality and psychological status affect a pet dog’s behavior.

In order to elucidate the positive and negative aspects of owners’ interaction with their dogs, investigators Dodman & Serpell proposed the largest owner-dog personality-behavior study ever conducted with a view to establishing once and for all how owner personality and psychological status affects a pet’s behavior. From the results of this study, Dodman & Serpell expect to be able to help owners understand the influence they are having on their pet’s behavior and to be able to modify their interactions with their dog in a positive way.

Dodman & Serpell believe the study will also help predict which owner personality types are most compatible with a particular dog that they plan to adopt, thereby helping ensure a harmonious pairing, owner satisfaction, and the adopted dog thus having a home for life.

Learn more about the Scientific background for this study.


Dr. Dodman

Lead Investigator: Read more about
Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman »

Dr. James Serpell UPENN behaviorist Phd canines

Co-Investigator: Read more about
Dr. James A. Serpell, PhD »

ANIMAL OWNERSHIP INTERACTION STUDY OBJECTIVE

The Animal Ownership Interaction Study cohort will comprise volunteer dog-owner participants and their canines of both pure and mixed breeds. Study analysis will include identifying sub-cohorts by various factors, such as, but not limited to, pure breed, mixed breed, breed mix as identified by voluntary breed genetic testing, owners’ source of the canine (i.e. breeder, shelter, friend, puppy breeder/pet store, etc.), age, pre-existing health issues, etc.

A primary study objective is to follow adopted shelter dogs throughout their lives to gain further insight into the human-canine bond to help reduce relinquishment and return that can often lead to destruction of the dog. From the results of this study, investigators Dodman & Serpell expect to be able to help owners understand the influence they are having on their pet’s behavior and to be able to modify their interactions with their dog in a positive way.

To participate in this Study, you must be Registered with the Center. After you are Registered you may read the Study Information and then provide your Consent to the terms of the Study, which will permit you to proceed to participating in the Study.

Register to be a Member of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies. You don't need to own a dog; just love them.

Membership is FREE.

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Inaugural Study Background

Animal Ownership Behavior Study

THE EFFECT OF DOG OWNER PERSONALITY ON THE BEHAVIOR OF DOGS

Background

Behavior problems are the most common reason for owners to surrender their dogs to shelters and pounds (Arkow & Dow, 1984; Herron et al., 2007; Miller et al., 1996; Patronek et al., 1996; Salman et al., 1998; Salman et al., 2000). With 4 million dogs being surrendered each year in the United States and with 2.2 million of these being euthanatized, this is clearly a problem of major proportions. Many of these dogs could have been saved if their owners had had a better understanding of how their own personality and behavior influences the behavior of their dogs.

A number of previous studies have demonstrated associations between aspects of dog owner personality and psychological status and the expression of behavior problems in their dogs. O’Farrell (1995), for example, detected higher rates of behavior problems (sexual mounting, destructiveness, attention-seeking and aggression) among dogs belonging to owners who obtained high scores on the ‘neuroticism’ scale of the Eysenck Personality Inventory. Podberscek & Serpell (1997) found that the owners of a sample of aggressive dogs were significantly more likely to rate themselves as tense, shy, and emotionally unstable on the Catell 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire than a comparable sample of owners of non-aggressive dogs, and Dodman et al. (2004) detected associations between personality factors measured by the California Personality Inventory and the expression of canine behavior problems such as dominance-related aggression, fear aggression, and separation anxiety. In a longitudinal study of the search & rescue dogs deployed at the WTC and Pentagon following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hunt et al. (2012) also found that owner’s/handler’s PTSD and depression symptom scores one year after deployment predicted the development of behavioral problems such as attention-seeking, separation anxiety and aggression in their dogs up to a year later.

While the precise mechanisms responsible for such effects are unknown, other research has demonstrated that an owner’s style of interacting with a dog can have a negative influence on the animal’s working ability and likelihood of displaying undesirable behaviors (Clarke & Boyer, 1993; Haverbeke et al., 2008; Lefebvre et al., 2006; Rooney & Cowan, 2011). Taken together, these findings suggest that the influence of owner attitudes, personality and psychological status on the behavior of their dogs is probably mediated via their effect on the quality of the dog-owner relationship and the various interactions that comprise that relationship. Evidence confirming this link has emerged recently from unpublished data on working assistance dogs in which significant correlations were found between particular owner/handler personality types and the tendency to reward good behavior, or to correct dogs more frequently and view them as being less responsive to corrections.

In order to elucidate the positive and negative aspects of owners’ interaction with their dogs, investigators Dodman & Serpell propose the largest owner-dog personality-behavior study ever conducted with a view to establishing once and for all how owner personality and psychological status affects a pet’s behavior. From the results of this study, Dodman & Serpell expect to be able to help owners understand the influence they are having on their pet’s behavior and to be able to modify their interactions with their dog in a positive way.

Dodman & Serpell believe the study will also help predict which owner personality types are most compatible with a particular dog that they plan to adopt, thereby helping ensure a harmonious pairing, owner satisfaction, and the adopted dog thus having a home for life.

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